Leadville and urban malaise


Went to Leadville, read Stegner in my sleeping bag, as you do. I bookended a night under the lodgepoles — droning mosquitoes, skies of impossible clarity — with runs up Mt. Elbert (14,440’) and Hagerman Pass to the Continental Divide (12,100’).

What is it about running at high elevation that is so captivating? Perhaps it is the world reduced to a handful of parameters: breathing, footfall, stark lines and golden light. Simple, symmetrical goals. Struggle and resolution. I’ve lost my acclimation down here in the mile-high, but that’s okay. I can still move pretty quickly in the thin air.

After jogging up and down Elbert, a glissade thrown in for good measure, I soaked in the headwaters of the Arkansas, frigid and raging with snowmelt. That evening I was utterly rejuvenated, a touch of tendonitis I’d been managing all but gone. I set out for an evening shakeout along Turquoise Lake, my legs feeling the best they’d felt all week. The body often defies mechanical logic.

The next morning, Hagerman beckoned, and the long, mellow incline to to the spine of the continent slipped away without much effort. There are still some impressively deep drifts of snow up there: even in a dry subrange of generally dry mountains, I’m always impressed at the vagaries of land and climate in producing these patches of lushness. Back at the car, I basked and ate a banana.

But now I am back in Denver, discontented. I left Leadville midday after hemming and hawing about staying another night, but some sense of obligation and rationality drove me down. I should look after the house while Kate’s away; I should be in the city because it’s less fun and makes me feel more like I have a real job; it’s in the name of injury prevention. Reasons that got me on I-70, but were immediately regretted when I hit the Front Range. When I’m feeling charitable, Denver has its perks but can be a hard place to live. When I’m feeling uncharitable, this town sucks.

There are good reasons I’m here, but busyness and the need to be productive isn’t one of them, as my job is based elsewhere and mostly remote — should I have needed to call in, City on a Hill would have been fine. I am not a more moral creature for coming down early. Probably the opposite.

Lesson learned. When in doubt, stay higher.


One thought on “Leadville and urban malaise

  1. Ethan, my skype died and I cant find your contact info- can you email your phone number, skype username etc to my new skype: nisabhobhikkhu.. Been too long. I dont really have email access for these 3 months till october but i’ll see what i can do. Hope you’re well brahski.

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